Eric and I were watching Saturday Night Live continue its downward spiral when we heard a knock at the door. “Great. Another noise complaint.” But Eric turned around from the peep hole cowering in fear.
“It’s that guy!”
There was an Avenue who lived across the hall. We were fairly sure. Drew street was Avenue territory, and you didn’t rep anybody but the Avenues and stick around long. He was always sporting a white tank top that showed off his tatts as he ushered his kids around the apartment complex.
He had been in a parking altercation with Kurt and Eric, and Eric in particular was quite intimidated. I was forced to answer the door.
“Are you the fucking guy who ratted me out?”
His accent was thick. I bought time. “Huh? I can barely understand you, I’m sorry.”
“Are you the fucking guy who fucking ratted me out?”
I had seen him before, but I never realized how short he was. Maybe 5’3″. He was flanked, though, by a bigger dude whose neck tattoos just barely stuck up from his sweat shirt. I tried to read them as they spoke to us, but nothing came of it. I was having a hard enough time understanding their speech, and that seemed much more pressing. From what I could decipher, the runt was pissed off about a noise complaint.
“Wasn’t us, man. We get noise complaints all the time too, just for watching TV and talking at night. It’s ridiculous,” I said.
“I’m ’bout to fucking kill somebody over this shit. I don’t even care. You can lock me up. I’ll go to jail, and then somebody else will shoot you. It don’t matter.”
Eric and I let out some nervous laughter watching him pace back and forth in the hallway, frothing.
“If you pay rent, it don’t fucking matter what else you do, am I right? This shit is too much. I’m ’bout to kill somebody. That fucking manager, I threw him against the wall yesterday, man. You probably heard it.”
I had heard it; Kurt had too. We had wondered at the time if there was yet another drive-by about to go down. But no, it was just this guy throwing our super against the wall.
Thankfully, he calmed a little as he realized that we weren’t to blame.
“Well, he said it was the neighbors. If it wasn’t you, I think I know the motherfucker.”
He pointed to his enforcer.
“That’s my brother. He’s the good one. I’m the bad one.”
“We’re not trying to intimidate you,” said the brother.
“I believe it.”
No, I didn’t. Eric and I stood there, hanging onto our open door, as the inquisition turned into a chat.
“Just make sure if you have a problem,” said the good brother, “knock on the door. Don’t go to the manager. Come in and we’ll give you a beer and hang out. Whatever you guys want to do.”
The runt said, “you ever drunk Coronas?”
“Sure,” I said. That was a weird question. Do white people drink Coronas? Just how vast did this guy think our cultural differences were?
“Go get these guys some beers,” he told his brother.
Eric held his hands up. “We don’t want to trouble you guys.”
“Fuck it, man. You throw a party, maybe I’ll be the one buying the beer. Some Saturday night we’re throwing a party, come fucking get drunk with us.”
As they handed us a pair of Corona Extras, Eric and I exchanged a look. Were we friends with the Aves now? This was Drew street. The cops were scared shitless to come in without SWAT, and SWAT only removed the shitless. This beer exchange seemed like a moment of real charity. Did it make the runt and his brother feel nice and liberal, treating us white kids to a bottle of booze? We felt nice and liberal taking it.
They popped the tops for us. I hadn’t had a drink in weeks. The beer was cold. Then the good brother spoke up again. “You guys are white, but we’re not prejudiced.”
“Neither are we,” said Eric, “we don’t care about any of that.”
The runt said, “fucking… maybe you get drunk you can understand Spanish music. I get drunk I can understand English.”
Our handshake was the most bizarre of my life. It was like shaking a dead fish. Like all the nerves in his hand were dead. Like he was afraid to squeeze or he would break me. It was disconcerting, but the interaction was almost over. Eric and I wished them well on their hunt to kill whomever had dared make a noise complaint against them.
We went back to SNL. It still wasn’t funny, but the Coronas helped. A little.